Cup and Level

This year has been a hell for leather romp through heavy turf towards a non-existent finish line. To be honest, it’s always breakneck speed around here. The simple life was never my ideal. I prefer to ramp it up and test the boundaries by piling in as much good stuff as I possibly can. My capacity for good stuff is substantial.

It’s a challenge to balance the good stuff with the washing up and endless amount of sweeping required due to the numerous little feet in this house. But, I want to tell you about some of the good stuff I have been squashing into my writing life.

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I kicked off my writing year in February with The Novelist’s Bootcamp, lead by the prolific and intensified Dr Kim Wilkins. It was fascinating to see a plotter in her natural habitat, surrounded by books and acolytes. I felt like a spy, gathering secret info to bring back to the tribe.

Before attending this weekend workshop, everything I knew about plotting was learnt the hard way. I set out on this epic novel writing journey two years ago. I had written songs, reams of work related guff and I’d blogged. But I’d never written a story. Not even a short one. I’d planned to knock it out by Christmas. 2014. Plot? What plot?

I am nothing if not pig headed persistent (born in the Year of the Boar). So I have pushed on with my late bloomer experiment, despite my failings and plot holes larger than lunar craters. Slowly but surely I am getting a grip on my characters and their stories.

I conjured up a new idea for a second (unrelated) book about a year ago, and diligently put it on the backburner to focus all my efforts on getting the first book to something that might approach being a first draft. By the end of last year, I needed to put it aside, and I attended the Bootcamp with my second book in mind and the hope that, with some plotting clarity, I might finish it within my lifetime. So glad I did.

So this is where I confess. My name is Rose and I am a workshopaholic. It’s been about 8 weeks since my last workshop and…you know how this story goes.

Self-indulgent? Obsessive? I confess, I confess.

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In March, I took myself to Sydney to attend a mind altering weekend with Charlotte Wood and Alison Manning designed to ‘bring joy, pleasure and productivity back to your writing life’. Taking the time to pull apart my reasons for writing and acknowledge the gifts writing gives to me was quite an experience. More than just making a plan, this was like discovering I had a third eye and almost as good as seeing colour tv for the first time. Yes, I am that old. And it was that good.

Alison is doing some research on writer’s procrastination, so if you are interested, sign up here. Charlotte has just claimed The Stella Prize for her novel ‘The Natural Way of Things’ and her acceptance speech was a snapshot of our phenomenal experience at the workshop. Read it here.

Then in April, the old hometown came out swinging with The Rock and Roll Writers Festival. Hell on wheels. My two favourite things. Together. Leanne De Souza and Joe Wolley built this sweet event on their own blood sweat and tears. The program was meaty and expansive, the conversations heartening and sustaining. So very grateful this happened in Brisbane. Be there next year.

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When I sat down to start working on the new novel, my writing plan flew out the window and I found myself drawn back to the first. Rediscovering my characters, re-engaging with the story and sensing some progress feels good. So don’t try to divert me with your fabulous workshops, exciting new festivals or dirty floors. I’m filling my cup. I’m writing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tunes for Words

Music has always played a leading role in my life. Each and every day, the soundtrack evolves, sometimes planned, often random. I’ve written a lot of words while listening to music. That’s what songwriters do. So it’s a natural thing for me to have music playing while I write. I haven’t written many songs lately, but music is an important part of writing my work in progress.

I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to my writing environment. Inside, outside, desk, lap, cafe, library, I can usually bash a few words out. But when I put the headphones on and I hit that perfect match of song, of mood, scene and character, then I am flying and the words are flowing.

These are the artists who I have been listening to lately and I am grateful for the inspiration they have provided. Some of these albums or performances I associate directly with my characters, others evoke place or mood but there are a couple which just put me in a creative space.

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It’s a fine line. Get it right and the zone is all mine, but if it’s not, I can end up faffing around searching for the right accompaniment instead writing.

I have tried using Pandora, where I set up a writing channel. This works at a low volume but it has the potential to detour me when artists or music I either like or don’t are thrown into the mix. Playlists can distract for the same reason.

Depending on the writing task, I chose my weapon. Film soundtracks, classical and instrumental music can work but for the contemporary fiction I’m writing, the characters I’m writing about, the urban, sub-tropical places they inhabit, I want the music to reflect that world. These artists and recordings have helped me tap into my character’s inner lives, their mood palettes, the hard words and the soft places.

Like a small child with a favourite book, I have played these tracks over and over again. And now, I will never hear them again without reaching inwards to the place where my characters took their form and became alive and difficult and real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crawling through the broken glass of a first draft

 

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I am about 10,000 words off finishing the first draft of my first (she wrote, hopefully) novel. I’ve been saying that for a couple of months now and believe me, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.

This story expands and shrinks in the telling of it. Early on I wondered if it might end up a novella, but the characters deepened as they took on the complexities of lived lives, and the plot thickened. And that meant more words were required.

You’d think the momentum would power you through to the end. I could probably knock it over in a weekend of kid-free, concentrated effort. Yet, knowing I’m so close has grounded me, like the nightmare where you know you must run to save your own life, but you cannot budge.

I am not in a race, I tell myself. I have no deadline or anything other than my own evil gnome of an inner voice telling me to ‘finish, finish, finish.’

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Instead, I contemplate my characters as I hang the washing. I gather images of their place and time, of their unraveling moods and frivolous indulgences instead of paying the bills. I trawl for the music and the songs they listen to, dance to, love to and leave the dirty dishes for later. I read other’s stories, laughing, crying, devouring, respecting instead of sleeping.

There are many things to do, but I waste time doing nothing. It never lasts long, but that nothingness is a super powered fertilizer to my nutrient deprived creative roots.

Slaving over this slow cooked, bone broth of a draft for well over a year has been a labor of love. Like most people, I have many balls in the air, but this writing ball needs one hand all to itself. It needs a room with a door and time to brew.

Time’s up. It will be done before the end of the year. You are my witnesses.

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#1 Inspired

It’s nerve wracking to start this blog. I’m not a blogging virgin. I blogged over at Love Many Trust Few for three whole years and I’m hoping that some of you may have come over from there. But this is my new blog. It’s not specifically about parenting or fostering or autism but will, of course, mine those rich veins. It’s about writing. And that makes me feel like I’m the new kid at school.

I stopped blogging to focus on a big writing project – a novel. Still working on it and can laugh at myself for thinking I could write a first draft in six months. I am a relentless optimist despite all evidence to the contrary. Eighteen months later I am at the tail end of the first draft and have committed myself to finishing it by the end of this year and to starting this new blog.

My first post, after much deliberation, is about some of the books that have inspired me in recent years. Believe me, this doesn’t come close to covering it, but I had to start somewhere. I’ve always enjoyed reading from an eclectic bookshelf so I’m covering non-fiction, memoir, kids and fiction with a one sentence reason to read.

I’d love to hear your recommendations too – feed me!

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The complexities of love are made clear and simple for all kids, but especially for those who can’t be with the ones they love.

Patrice Karst

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I thank Andrew Solomon daily for the 10 years of research and writing he put into this astounding door stop of a book on families and identity.

Far From the Tree (amazing site)

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Deserving of all the praise for a riveting story at the intersection of language, family violence, autism, hope and desperation, plus it made my pipes leak.

Sophie Laguna

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A mother and son who know the secret to a meaningful life.

www.laserbeakman.com